An ‘all-party’ event: 3000 political VIPs to attend the match

MUMBAI: A contingent of senior political leaders from the Centre is set to descend on Mumbai’s soil on Saturday to watch the India-Sri Lanka World Cup cricket final at Wankhede stadium. Law-enforcing agencies are expecting over 3,000 VIPs led by President Pratibha Patil and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa. A senior Congress leader told TOI that Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have confirmed that they will be in the city for the final match, but Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s presence is doubtful.

To add to the general chaos, senior police officials are expecting many netas to follow in the footsteps of Sonia and Rahul, who had been cheering the Indian cricket team from the general stands during Wednesday’s Indo-Pak semi-final at Mohali. Senior police officials said that along with the Mumbai Cricket Association, they have identified over six ‘aam admi’ stands for high-profile politicians who are willing to sweat it out under the city’s harsh sun. A senior official said: “We are sure that a large number of Congress politicians and cabinet members will prefer ‘aam admi’ stands. So, we have identified places for important persons. No doubt, they will be general stands, but they will have enhanced security cover.”

Besides the President of India, security agencies are expecting at least three governors, including Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan, more than 35 Union cabinet members, chief ministers of seven states and other leading politicians to attend the match. Their own security teams will also be accompanying them.

The BJP contingent is said to include party president Nitin Gadkari, senior leader L K Advani, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitely and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The Shiv Sena will be represented by executive president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya. Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, with his wife Satwashila, Union ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Praful Patel, Murali Deora and Gurudas Kamat have also informed organizers that they will be attending the World Cup final at Wankhede. NCP president and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar will play host. “It will truly be an all-party event,” said a senior official.

While the MCA says it has the situation and seating arrangements under control, sources associated with the organization told TOI otherwise. An MCA member said: “The biggest issue before us is to provide seats to such a large number of VIPs. There is little scope for last-minute adjustment as the tickets have already been sold online.” The only way out, he said, is for the MCA to request affiliated clubs to surrender their seats to accommodate the influx of VIPs.

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